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Program Governance

Program governance,

  1. enables and performs program decision making, establishes practices to support the program, and maintain program oversight.
  2. comprises the framework, functions, and processes by which a program is monitored, managed, and supported in order to meet organizational strategic and operational goals.

Program Manager,

  • has management responsibilities to ensure that the program is run within the governance framework while managing the day-to-day program activities.
  • should ensure that the program team understands and abides by the governance procedures and the underlying governance principles.

Component governance,

  • It is the governance of the different components of a program, that is achieved through the actions of the program manager and the program team.

Program governance is impacted by organizational governance, which is a structured way to provide control, direction, and coordination through people, policies, and processes to meet organizational strategic and operational.

Effective program governance supports the success of a program by:

  • Ensuring that the goals of the program remain aligned with the strategic vision, operational capabilities, and resource commitments of the sponsoring organization.
  • Approving, endorsing, and initiating the program and securing funding from the sponsoring organization;
  • Establishing clear, well-understood agreements as to how the sponsoring organization will oversee the program, and conversely, the degree of autonomy that the program will be given in the pursuit of its goals;
  • Facilitating the engagement of program stakeholders by establishing clear expectations for each program’s interactions with key governing stakeholders throughout the program;
  • Creating an environment for communicating and addressing program risks and uncertainties to the organization, as well as opportunities and issues that arise during the course of program performance;
  • Providing a framework that is aligned with portfolio and corporate governance policies and processes for assessing and ensuring the program is compliant. Each program may need to create a particular governance process or procedure, but it should be aligned with the organization’s governance principles;
  • Designing and authorizing the assurance process and, when required, executing reviews and health checks of the program progress in delivering its expected benefits. Various review types are used, including phase-gate reviews, other decision point reviews, and periodic health checks;
  • Enabling the organization to assess the viability of the organization’s strategic plan and the level of support required to achieve it;
  • Selecting, endorsing, and enabling the pursuit of program components, including projects, subsidiary programs, and other program activities; and
  • Making decisions to transition between phases, terminate, or close the program.

1.- Program Governance Practices

To facilitate the design and implementation of effective governance, many organizations prepare documented descriptions of each program’s governance frameworks, functions, and processes.

The purpose of the program governance plan is to describe the systems and methods to be used to monitor, manage, and support a given program, and the responsibilities of specific roles for ensuring the timely and effective use of those systems and methods.

The program governance plan may be modified as appropriate, based on outcomes attained during the course of the program. It is generally accepted good practice to ensure that modifications are effectively communicated to those stakeholders responsible for program governance and program management.

The governance plan should

  • defines roles and responsibilities: who will have accountability and authority with respect to key decision-making categories and responsibility boundaries.
  • contain a schedule of anticipated program-related governance meetings, activities, and key milestones, such as scheduled expected decision point reviews (including phase gate reviews), program health checks, and required audits.
  • Dependencies, assumptions, and constraints. List of governance key dependencies, assumptions, and constraints including resource, budget, and operational limitations.
  • Benefits, performance metrics, and measurement. List of the methods and metrics used to evaluate the program and evaluate component contributions to benefits, and a description of how information on the components will be collected, consolidated, and reported (e.g., a balanced scorecard or dashboard).
  • Support services. Identification of the areas where governance-related support is needed. Included is a description of the feedback and support approach used during the program.
  • Stakeholder engagement . A listing of the stakeholders who should be engaged and communicated with during the program’s life cycle and governance activities.

The vision and goals of the organization provide the basis for strategic mandates that drive the definition of most programs. Program governance ensures that any program within its area of authority defines its vision and goals in order to effectively support those of the organization.

Program approval, endorsement, and definition

These approvals occur in the program definition phase and are facilitated by two program artifacts:

  • Program business case. Serves as a formal projection of the benefits that the program is expected to deliver and a justification for the resources that will be expended to deliver it.
  • Program charter . Authorizes the program management team to use organizational resources to pursue the program and links the program to its business case and the organization’s strategic priorities.

Program governance facilitates program funding to the degree necessary to support the approved business case.

When program funding needs to be secured from external sources, program governance is typically responsible for entering into the appropriate agreements necessary to secure it.

The program success criteria

describes the definition of success consistent with the expectations and needs of key program stakeholders, and reinforce the program alignment to deliver the maximum attainable benefits.

Program monitoring, controlling and reporting may include:

  • Operational status and progress of programs, components, and related activities;
  • Expected or incurred program resource requirements;
  • Known program risks, their response plans, and escalation criteria;
  • Strategic and operational assumptions;
  • Benefits realized and expected sustainment;
  • Decision criteria, tracking, and communication;
  • Program change control;
  • Compliance with corporate and legal policies;
  • Program information management;
  • Issues and issue response plans; and
  • Program funding and financial performance.

Program risk and issue governance

Effective risk and issue management practices ensure that key risks and issues are escalated appropriately and resolved in a timely manner.

The escalation processes typically operate at two levels:

  • (a) within the program, between component teams, the program management team, and the program steering committee; and
  • (b) outside the program, between the program management team, the program’s steering committee, and other stakeholders.

Based on the risk appetite of the organization, and working with organizational governance and the program management team, program governance may establish program risk thresholds for adherence within the program.

Program quality governance

Quality management planning is often performed at the component level, and therefore is managed at that level.

The governance participants are responsible for reviewing and approving the approach to quality management and the standards by which quality will be measured.

In some cases, the governance participants may define such measures, which include:

  • Minimum quality criteria and standards to be applied to all components of the program;
  • Minimum requirements for quality planning, quality control, and quality assurance by components;
  • Any required program-level quality assurance or quality control activities; and
  • Roles and responsibilities for required program-level quality assurance and quality control activities.

Program change governance

The program manager assesses whether the risks associated with potential changes are acceptable or desirable, whether the proposed changes are operationally feasible and organizationally supportable, and whether the changes are significant enough to require approval of the program steering committee.

The extent to which a change can be authorized by program governance is bounded by the program business case and organizational strategy.

Program governance reviews

Program governance endorses decision-point reviews and their specific objectives, which may include assessments of the:

  • Strategic alignment of the program and its components with the intended goals of both the program and the organization;
  • Risk that the program faces, to ensure that the level of risk remains acceptable and to provide opportunity for program governance to assist in responding to risk;
  • Program resource needs and organizational commitments in addition to capabilities for fulfilling them;
  • Stakeholder satisfaction with current program performance;
  • Issues that should be resolved in order to improve program progress;
  • Potential need for changes to elements of the program, in order to further improve the program’s performance and likelihood of success; and
  • Fulfillment of criteria for exiting the preceding phase and entering the succeeding phase.

Program periodic health checks

The importance and use of these reviews increase when there is an extended period between scheduled decision-point reviews.

The program governance plan specifies governance requirements for the scheduling, the content, the participants, and the assessments (or metrics) to be used during such health checks.

Program component initiation and transition

Program steering committee approval is usually required prior to the initiation of individual components of the program to the extent that the initiation of a component requires:

  • (a) the introduction of additional governance structures that are responsible for monitoring and managing the component, and
  • (b) the firm commitment of organizational resources for its completion.

The program manager frequently acts as the proposer when seeking authorization for the initiation of these components.

The approval of the initiation of a new program component generally includes:

  • Developing, modifying, or reconfirming the business case;
  • Ensuring the availability of resources to perform the component;
  • Defining or reconfirming individual accountabilities for management and pursuit of the component;
  • Ensuring the communication of critical component-related information to key stakeholders;
  • Authorizing the governance structure to track the component’s progress against its goals.

Approval is generally required for transition and closure of an individual program component. The review of any recommendation for the transition or closure of a program component generally includes:

  • Ensuring appropriate program-level communications of the component’s closure to key stakeholders,
  • Ensuring component compliance with program-level quality control plans (when required),
  • Assessing organizational- or program-level lessons learned as a consequence of performance of the component in transition, and
  • Confirming that all other accepted practices for project or program transition or closure have been satisfied.

Program closure

  • The program steering committee reviews and makes decisions on recommendations for the closure of programs.
  • Alternatively, programs may be terminated because changes in the organizational strategy or environment have resulted in diminished program benefits or needs.
    Regardless of the cause for termination, closure procedures should be implemented.
  • The final program report is approved by the governance participants during closure.

2.- Program governance roles

Establishing an appropriate collaborative relationship between individuals responsible for program governance and program management is critical to the success of programs in delivering the benefits desired by the organization.

Program managers rely on the program steering committee (also referred to as the program governance board , oversight committee, or board of directors) members to establish organizational conditions that enable the effective pursuit of programs and to resolve issues that inevitably arise when the needs of their program conflict with the needs of other programs, projects, or ongoing operational activities.

In accordance with the program charter, program managers assume responsibility and accountability for effectively managing programs in the pursuit of organizational goals as authorized by the program steering committee.

Commonly used roles

  • Program sponsor. An individual or a group that provides resources and support for the program and is accountable for enabling success.
  • Program steering committee . A group of participants representing various program-related interests with the purpose of supporting the program under its authority by providing guidance, endorsements, and approvals through the governance practices.
  • Program management office (PMO). A management structure that standardizes the program-related governance processes and facilitates the sharing of resources, methodologies, tools, and techniques.
  • Program manager. The individual within an agency, organization, or corporation who maintains responsibility for the leadership, conduct, and performance of a program. In the context of governance, this role interfaces with the program steering committee and sponsor and manages the program to ensure delivery of the intended benefits.
  • Project manager . The person assigned by the performing organization to lead the team that is responsible for achieving project objectives. In the context of governance, this role interfaces with the program manager and program sponsor and manages the delivery of the project’s product, service, or result.
  • Other stakeholders. These stakeholders include the manager of the portfolio of which the program is a component and operational managers receiving the capabilities delivered by the program.

Program Sponsor

The program sponsor is the individual responsible for committing the application of organizational resources to the program and for program success.

Typical responsibilities of the program sponsor are to:

  • Secure funding for the program and ensure program goals and objectives are aligned with the strategic vision;
  • Enable the delivery of benefits; and
  • Remove barriers and obstacles to program success.

Typically, an effective sponsor exhibits the following attributes:

  • Ability to influence stakeholders,
  • Ability to work across different stakeholder groups to find mutually beneficial solutions,
  • Leadership,
  • Decision-making authority, and
  • Effective communication skills.

Program steering committee

Program steering committees ensure that programs are pursued in an environment with appropriate organizational knowledge and expertise, well supported by cohesive policies and processes, and empowered by their access to those with decision-making authority.

Typical responsibilities include:

  • Provide governance support for the program to include oversight, control, integration, and decision-making functions;
  • Provide capable governance resources to oversee and monitor program uncertainty and complexity related to achieving benefits delivery;
  • Ensure program goals and planned benefits align with organizational strategic and operational goals;
  • Conduct planning sessions to confirm, prioritize, and fund the program;
  • Endorse or approve program recommendations and changes;
  • Resolve and remediate escalated program issues and risks;
  • Provide leadership in making, enforcing, carrying out, and communicating decisions;
  • Review expected benefits and benefits delivery; and
  • Approve program closure or termination.

Program Management Office (PMO)

It facilitates the governance practices.

It is a management structure that standardizes the program-related governance processes and facilitates the sharing of resources, methodologies, tools, and techniques.

It provides professional expertise using staff highly trained in applying program governance practices to provide oversight, support, and decision-making capability to the program.

The PMO role may extend to monitoring compliance to program management practices.

Program Manager

The program manager is the individual responsible for management and oversight of the program’s interactions with the program governance function.

Typical governance-related responsibilities include:

  • Assess the governance framework, including organizational structure, policies, and procedures, and, in some cases, establish the program governance framework;
  • Oversee program conformance to governance policies and processes;
  • Manage program interactions with the steering committee and sponsor;
  • Manage inter-dependencies between components within the program;
  • Monitor and manage program risks, performance, and communications;
  • Manage program risks and issues and escalate critical risks and issues beyond the program manager’s control to the steering committee;
  • Monitor and report on overall program funding and health;
  • Manage, monitor, and track overall program benefits realization.

Project Manager

In the context of a program, the project manager role generally refers to an individual responsible for oversight or management of a project that is being pursued as a component of the program.

While the role is not always central to program governance, the typical governance-related responsibilities of a project manager include:

  • Manage project interactions with the program manager, steering committee, and sponsor;
  • Oversee project conformance to governance policies and processes;
  • Monitor and manage performance and communications;
  • Manage project risks and issues and escalate critical risks and issues beyond the project manager’s control to the program manager, sponsor, or steering committee of the project;

Other stakeholders

Several other stakeholders may have program governance related roles.

The portfolio manager may have a role in ensuring that a program is selected, prioritized, and staffed according to the organization’s plan for realizing desired benefits.

The operational manager is generally responsible for receiving and integrating the capabilities delivered by other program components for achieving desired organizational benefits.

This role has governance implications as it informs and performs the governance practices.

3.- Program governance design and implementation

Program governance begins with (1) the identification of governance participants and the (2) establishment of governance practices. There is also the need to (3) define expectations for how governance-related roles are filled and responsibilities are discharged.

Governance practices may differ depending on the sector or industry that the organization serves. Governance of programs in such diverse fields as national or local government, aerospace and defense, banking and financing, and pharmaceutical development may have remarkably different needs based on the unique political, regulatory, legal, technical, and competitive environments in which they operate.

Governance practices provide the foundation for ensuring that decisions are made rationally and with appropriate justification, and that the responsibilities and accountabilities are clearly defined and applied.

There are many factors to consider when designing the program governance rules and framework. Common factors to consider when optimizing and tailoring program governance include:

  • Legislative environment . Programs that are significantly influenced by changing legislation may benefit from governance designed for direct interaction with the legislative authorities.
  • Decision-making hierarchy. It is critical for decision-making responsibility to be at the level where competence, accountability, and authority reside.
  • Alignment with portfolio and organizational governance. Program governance is impacted by the portfolio governance that it supports.
  • Program delivery. A program that regularly delivers benefits to the organization is likely to require different governance than a program delivering all or most of the benefits at the end.
  • Risk of failure . The greater the perceived risk of program failure, the greater the likelihood the governance team will monitor progress and success more diligently.
  • Strategic importance. High-value programs critical to the success of the organization and delivering benefits that need to be completely aligned with the strategy may require different or more senior participants on the governance team.
  • Program management office (PMO). In many project- or program-based organizations, a centralized PMO supports the governance of all programs for that organization. In other organizations, PMOs may be formed specifically for a given program.
  • Program funding structure. When funding is secured from outside the delivery organization, for example from the World Bank, there are likely implications on the design of the governance and the skills required.

The corresponding design of the governance should align with required practices in a timely manner.

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